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Sustainable Coffee: how the coffee industry pioneered sustainable practices

Not so long ago espresso used to be a luxury product restricted to a few wealthy insiders. Development of coffee planting around the world, mass production and globalization change the situation entirely. Nowadays, espresso is no longer a rarity and good quality coffee is available in coffee shops and at home. Maybe you are even enjoying a HiLine Coffee Dark Roast from your own coffee machine while reading this post…

Unfortunately, the value generated by this sharp increase in coffee consumption was not equally distributed. The continuous decrease of coffee bean price dramatically impacted producing countries. The environment suffered. So did coffee farmers who saw revenue generated by the coffee they had been carefully selecting for decades gradually drop. Economic, social but also quality related issues started to arise. The situation is still extremely complex and far from being resolved. However, since the beginning of the century, the coffee industry is at the forefront of new initiatives allowing producers to enjoy better returns on the beans they produce while more carefully protecting an environment that is key to the flavor and aroma of coffee beans. Such initiatives are known as “Sustainable coffee” programs. Many approaches have emerged: organic, certified, fair trade, etc… Some non-profit organizations have started independent certification programs: Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, Utz or Common Code for the Coffee (4C)... Some big corporate, like Starbucks even developed their own certification label. All cover different economic, social and environmental standards. This diversity reflects the issue multiple challenges and the variety of solutions offered. Sustainability means more expensive coffee beans. In a nutshell, one way or another it involved the payment of a premium to coffee growers. Such premiums are used for instance to finance the planting of new coffee trees, to develop environment-friendly practices in order to avoid water wasting / pollution when coffee beans are washed, or to educate farmers to sustainable farming practices, improving crop yields and quality… At first limited to South and Central America origins, these programs are now spreading to Asia and Africa producing countries. There is still some times to go before sustainable coffee certification become a unique and universal stamp. However, in less than a decade the amount of sustainable coffee went from none to 8% (Ref: ICO World Coffee Conference) of the annual world production in 2009. Since 2010, the main certifiers have agreed to work together on a common sustainability definition in order to measure the social and economic impact of the best practices they are helping to develop. Overall, the incredible intuition of the coffee industry was to understand, far before sustainable became a trendy and marketable adjective that everyone needed to be involved: farmers, traders, merchants, roasters but above all consumers. Education paid off as sustainable coffee is no longer a niche production. With consumers growing interest for traceable and sustainable food, we can all hope for a more and more balanced coffee industry in the years to come. HiLine Coffee supports sustainable practices and coffee trade. Please check us out to learn more about HiLine's capsules compatible with Nespresso machines .